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Is fish oil still worth taking?

Published: March 15, 2014 09:00 AM

Q. There's been a lot of negative news lately about dietary supplements—including that a lot of them don't work. Does that apply to my fish-oil pills?

A. It might. There's no question that our bodies need the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish-oil pills and some other sources. But most people are better off getting their omega-3s from fish than from supplements. The latest evidence suggests that fish-oil pills don’t protect against heart attacks or strokes, even for people at risk for heart disease. And as with other supplements, nonprescription fish-oil pills are only loosely regulated for quality and purity (in other words, you don't necessarily know the pills contain what the bottle says they do). And they might interfere with medication you take.

In contrast, eating about two servings of fish a week seems to be moderately protective against heart attacks and strokes. Good choices include wild salmon and sardines, because both are low in mercury.

To learn more about supplements you may not need, watch our video. And read about 12 dangerous supplement ingredients you should never take

Have a question? Ask our health care experts.

Editor's Note:

This article appeared in the April 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

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